Mechelen is one of the most richly historic towns and a very easy, very rewarding and exciting stop, only 20 minutes from either Brussels or Antwerp. If you travel by train from Antwerp to Brussels or the other way around, a stop in Mechelen will not cost you anything extra and you can enjoy a new Belgian city on your way.
What’s so special about Mechelen? In the 15th and 16th centuries Mechelen was the capital of the Burgundian Netherlands (present Belgium and Holland). It was the residence of Margaret of Austria, regent of these Netherlands and aunt and tutor of Charles V later to become the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Fabulous historic buildings reflect Mechelen’s glorious past: the gothic Town hall and its Belfry, the Palace of the Grand Council, Margareth of Austria’s palace, the Court of Busleyden (see below) and the Beguinage.
The imposing and magnificent tower of St. Rumbold Cathedral dominates the city, which is also the seat of the Archbishop of Belgium. National and international carillon (tower bells) players treat the visitors to concerts on Saturdays and Sundays year round. Mechelen is the Mecca for carillon musicians who come here from all over the world to study this difficult art. In the “Royal Manufacture of Tapestry Gaspard de Wit” you can follow the evolution of tapestry weaving from the 16th century on.
A great landmark of Mechelen is the early 16th century palace of the humanist Hieronymus van Busleyden, a teacher of the Emperor Charles V, judge at the Great Council of Mechelen and patron of Thomas More’s most famous work Utopia. The elegant south wing features an open galleria with renaissance pillars and a Gothic balustrade. Today it hosts the Hof van Busleyden museum of Mechelen.
Mechelen also boasts one of the best hands-on centers for science and technology in the world, Technopolis. In Technopolis you are strongly encouraged to touch and play with the exhibits! Ride a bike on a high wire, make your hair stand on end, lie on a bed of nails… science can be fun for kids and adults alike!
While on a familiy travel to Belgium, make sure to put Mechelen’s Horse Diary Farm on your travel route. A family-owned, working horse milk dairy and livestock farm is a unique attraction for nature-lovers. Fresh horse milk and many other products on sale. Guided tours for groups (min. 15 people) and guided tours for individuals on request are organized on the farm.